I am writing to welcome you all to the new academic year, whether you are new to our community or returning to continue with your studies. As we begin the new year, campus life will be a little different. Our amazing staff have been working hard to adapt your teaching programmes, support services, social opportunities and campus life to ensure that we have new ways to help you achieve a transformational education and a great student experience while keeping you safe and well. The health and wellbeing of students and staff is our first priority, but also a shared responsibility for all members of our community to each do our bit in keeping each other safe. Please remember that we are here for you, and we want to hear from you, as we continue to do all we can to support you.
I also want to send a message of support to our new and continuing postgraduate research students. You are an important part of our community. Our Dean of Postgraduate Research Education will be keeping you updated throughout the year, supported by our Postgraduate Research Education team.
We understand that your time at Essex is a unique time in your life. We’re dedicated to helping you get as much out of it as you can, both now and for your future. While our primary focus is on your health and wellbeing, we will not let the pandemic stop you from succeeding in your studies and benefiting from the opportunities that an amazing Essex education offers you.
We have planned our programmes to ensure that we can adapt to the changing external environment through the year, and to offer flexibility to you to fit your learning around your own circumstances. Our ‘dual delivery’ approach enables us to deliver our courses in two ways:
Dual delivery also allows us to be flexible and respond to increased levels of infection and changes in Government requirements. It will mean that you can continue with your studies uninterrupted, whatever the circumstances through the year. If we need to change our approach, we are ready to respond quickly.
If you need to study remotely now or at any point during the year, tell us by going to the My Essex student portal and completing the Student Study Form. We will update your timetable with relevant links so that you can access classes and lectures remotely.
Our academic departments have developed different approaches to blended learning depending on their courses and disciplines. The amount of face to face teaching you have will vary, now and during the year. We are monitoring developments and will keep you informed of changes when we can. In all cases, we are managing the balance between online and face to face delivery across your whole course. While remote access to your learning is different, we want to provide a high quality Essex education however you are accessing it. Your Department or School will tell you more about the extra things they have put in place to support your learning in the coming year.
If you have any questions or concerns about your teaching, course or modules, we want to hear from you as soon as possible. Please contact your lecturers, your personal tutor or the professional services team in your Department or School. They are there for you so please do make the most of them. They have a wealth of knowledge and can help if you are not sure how to contact somebody in the Department. Our Students’ Union can also help you. There are Course Representatives at the Colchester, Southend and Loughton campuses, who will support you to provide feedback or resolve any issues you may have.
For most students, your teaching timetable will have been published on 28 September. If you have any questions about your timetable, there might be answers in our frequently asked questions. Please also contact your Department or School if you still have questions or need more information.
Some of you have not yet received the full details of your teaching in your timetable. This is because, in order to protect the health and wellbeing of our community, we are introducing face-to-face teaching in a phased way during the Autumn term. If you are affected by the phased return, your teaching will be fully online at the start of term, with a planned transition to face-to-face teaching in a few weeks. When your face to face teaching begins, you will receive an updated timetable for the rest of this term. The phased publication of the timetable is to ensure we provide accurate information for you during each phase.
We know that your time at Essex is not just about your learning. We know you want to have fun, to experience new things and to meet and make new friends. We have worked hard with our departments, clubs and societies and with our Students’ Union to make sure that, whether you are on campus or accessing your learning remotely, your experience will still be as good as it possibly can be.
Please look at our What’s On webpages for information about activities available to you, whether you are on our campuses or studying remotely.
If you are living in University accommodation, we have made some important changes to our accommodation policy in order to be as flexible as possible and to help you manage your circumstances. If you need to change your plans for taking up your campus accommodation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for advice on the next steps.
We appreciate that many of you live off campus in shared houses or in privately run units. Whilst the University cannot compel other landlords to adapt tenancy agreements, we are working with all providers of student accommodation, informing them of our flexible policy and urging them to be understanding and to support you as far as they can.
If you need to quarantine and/or self-isolate at any point during the academic year, we have developed a full programme to support you. Please remember to let us know by email to ensure appropriate support can be provided: email@example.com.
The whole Essex community has been working together during the summer to prepare for the new year and ensure you are as safe as possible. I want to emphasise how important it is for you all to play your part in keeping our community safe, by adhering to the rules and expectations about behaviour on our campuses and upholding our COVID-19 health and safety guidance. Staying safe on campus is not just important for your own health and wellbeing, but also for that of your fellow students, University staff, your families and friends and our wider local community.
We have produced a COVID-19 Behaviours Booklet. It is with everyone’s safety in mind that we ask you to follow these simple rules:
Any breaches of our COVID-19 guidelines will be addressed through our Student Conduct team and Security team. Our Code of Student Conduct allows the University to take firm action against anyone found or reported to be putting others’ safety at risk by breaching our COVID-19 requirements.
Our Student Services Hub for Colchester, Southend and Loughton are operating in-person, phone, email and live chat facilities and can provide information on our range of mental health and emotional support services. The Students’ Union Advice service is also available for you.
Library Services are available at all our campuses. Through our Library Services team, essential reading for your modules should be available online, accessible through the reading list information for your module on Moodle. The Library offers help and support via the chat function on the library website Monday – Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday - Sunday: 2-6pm
Study spaces on the Colchester campus can be booked from Monday 12 October 2020. The system is designed to manage the numbers in spaces to keep you safe. You must use the system and cannot use spaces without booking them, including empty classrooms. A mix of spaces are available with and without IT facilities.
Finally, we know you will have questions about your course and our plans for this year, including the Spring term 2021, which my email today will not have answered. Please do not worry, we understand. When we know more, we will share the answers with you as soon as we can. We will provide regular updates during this term. We will continue to publish information online through our dedicated COVID-19 webpages to support you as the answers become available. We are working with the Students’ Union to ensure the information we provide responds to the questions you have and the issues that are of most concern to you.
I wish you every success in the coming year.